An executor is someone appointed in a will to distribute the estate of the testator in accordance with the wishes set out in the Will. Quite often this will mean drawing in assets and paying any debts and liabilities owed before being able to make any of the gifts set out in the Will. 

Choosing an executor 

It is important to take care when choosing executors. Consideration should be made as to whether they are able to take on the role. 
The executors must be able to work well together where multiple executors are appointed due to the requirement to make unanimous decisions. If someone knowingly appoints 2 executors who do not see eye to eye, the reality is that distributing the estate and making any decision with regards to this could become very difficult. 
The chosen executors must be trustworthy and not be residing in another country for practical reasons. The age of the executor should be considered i.e. if they are elderly when appointed in the will, they may not be able to act when required. 
Executors can be trusted friends or family members. Others may prefer to appoint a professional executor i.e. accountants or a trust corporation if the estate is particularly complex. Alternatively, the executor can seek advice from a professional as and when required. 

What are the duties of an executor? 

The duties and responsibilities of an executor include, but are not limited to: 
Identifying and locating the assets and liabilities of the estate 
Applying for a grant of probate 
Advertising for claims and ensure all claims and debts are received, assessed and paid 
Dealing with tax returns and paying any inheritance tax due 
Arranging the funeral 
Determining the beneficiaries 
Distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the will and transferring assets to trustees if necessary 
Defending the estate against litigation should any arise 

Winding up an estate 

It is a common misconception that once someone dies their estate automatically passes from the deceased to the beneficiaries. However, probate can sometimes become contentious where there are challenges to the will on the grounds of capacity, undue influence or fraud as an example. There may also be instances where someone may bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the grounds they have not received reasonable financial provision. Therefore, it can sometimes take over a year or even longer in some cases to wind up the estate of a deceased person and for the estate itself to be distributed. 
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